When it comes to innovation and responsiveness to consumers, the private sector almost always does a better job than government. Normally, that's fine.
But when it comes to finding new ways to satisfy the public's seemingly bottomless appetite for mind-altering drugs, it is not.
Drugs of the "bath salts" variety - synthetic compounds that mimic illegal substances ranging from marijuana to heroin to LSD - are a serious problem for law enforcement agencies. Often sold openly, they are innovations by unscrupulous chemists who find ways to produce drugs that are not specifically illegal under state and federal statutes.
Ohio lawmakers, in approving legislation last year, intended to give government more flexibility in outlawing such drugs.
But this week, state Attorney General Mike DeWine admitted the law cannot be changed quickly enough to stay even with, much less a step ahead, of synthetic drug manufacturers. "There is simply no way for the legislature to monitor this and go back, sometimes every month or two months, to change the law," DeWine explained to members of the state Board of Pharmacy.
DeWine's purpose was to enlist the board's aid. He wants its members to take swift action against new synthetic drugs, declaring them illegal more quickly than the General Assembly can deal with specific new compounds.
Pharmacy Board members seemed sympathetic to DeWine's plight. Though his office, working closely with local police and sheriff's departments, has shut down a few "head shops" dealing in the synthetics, he can't act if a chemical is not illegal.
The board can help with that. Clearly, illegal drug industry chemists are making fortunes staying a step or two ahead of definitions in the law concerning what is legal and what is not. Board members can - and should - take away that advantage, probably saving lives in the process.